Some pre-season trips to forget
Sorry I’m a little late, a bit of a sleep-in issue over here this morning. And then Dopey Dog needed to be walked and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Anyway, I’m looking over the list of past pre-seasons trying to figure out a best and a worst and, you know, it’s pretty hard.
I’m thinking the year they played games in Bridgeport, Conn., Grand Rapids, Mich., Moline, Ill.(it’s one of the Quad Cities, by the way) and had the game cancelled out in St. John’s might be right at the top of the list. Four bad neutral sites and a game cancelled in a city I really enjoy made 2003 pretty crappy.
It’d probably be rivaled by 1997, when we went to Springfield, Mass., Hamilton, Halifax, Hartford, Conn., and Fort Wayne, Ind.
That was eventful on two occasions: In Hartford, I believe it was, the arena is physically attached to the hotel we stayed at and I recall a long-ago beat grunt from another paper in town took the wrong stairway trying to get out and found himself locked up tightly and unable to get out. Thank goodness for cell phones and people willing to rescue lost souls.
And, for some reason, I had to spend at least one extra night in Fort Wayne (I recall it being the first game for new Pacer coach Larry Bird and that was a pretty big deal in Indiana in those days). Anyway, the so-so, bordering-on-sketchy hotel I stayed at in downtown Fort Wayne was directly across the street from the city’s Welcome Centre.
The Welcome Centre, that is, that was closed for the entire three days we stayed there. Some welcome.
I notice the fine story in the paper edition our of paper today on the passing of Don Haskins, the legendary UTEP coach who died on Sunday.
It’s interesting that the story didn’t make huge headlines, or even minor ones, up here on Monday but anyone who’s a basketball fan at any level should know who, and what, Haskins was.
I’m sure many of you have seen Glory Road, the movie depicting Haskins’s team – with five black starters – beating the all-white Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA championship game. It’d have to be in the discussion of top basketball movies of all time.
Anyway, the significance of that game – the colour-blind Haskins just wanted players, not caring what they looked like as long as they could play and would accept tough coaching – shouldn’t be diminished.
Sure, somebody may have eventually done what Haskins did in 1966 (and it’s a shame it was that recent), but he did it first. And, really, changed the college game – and eventually the pro game – forever.
I never knew Don Haskins but he helped make the game I cover what it is.
Stepping back in time for some return reminiscences:
Q: I've just read what do you think reactions will be to TJ when he gets back to ACC. Covering the league for so long, you probably remember some of the most emotional welcomes. Besides the returns of The One Who Shall Not Be Named to Toronto, could you make us a list of the most hostile and most approving receptions of the ex or just rival players? And maybe some anecdote about how the players reacted (amazing performances, game-winning shots, etc.)?
Toni H, Zagreb, Croatia
A: There’ve been sooooo many, I guess I’ll try
If you’re leaving He Who Shall Not Be Named out of the conversation, I think it’s probably a dead heat between Tracy McGrady and Damon Stoudamire in the Most Hostile category.
I honestly don’t remember more venom being spewed by the fans those nights, it was pretty incredible.
McGrady, bless his little heart, loved it, he milked the crowd and fed off their negative energy, which he does until this day.
Stoudamire? He was more bemused than anything, as I recall.
Portland won that night and it was all I could do not to write a lead that said:
"Just like old times, Damon Stoudamire played well and the Raptors lost.”
Others: Doug Christie detested and Antonio Davis got more boos that I think he probably deserved given what he’d done for team on the court.
And I remember a smattering of boos for Oak, which, thankfully, were drowned out by the standing ovation he got from press row. On the positive side, well, we all remember the love for Mo Pete a year ago, don’t we? All well reserved and him going out and kissing the logo on the court got the folks into even more of a frenzy.
And Jerome Williams got raucous cheers, as I recall.
You know what we didn’t do? Pay nearly enough attention to the last week’s Hall of Fame inductions.
Hakeem Olajuwon was inducted and I cannot think of another guy with even a marginal connection to the Raptors who might be honoured like that.
Don’t envision at the moment this team that’s on the rise finding a future Hall of Famer to help put it over the top – as the early 2000s Raptors hoped would happen with The Dream – so Hakeem might be it for a very, very, very long time.
I know he was old and broken down by the time he arrived in Toronto – not to mention the issues that existed between him and then-coach Lenny Wilkens (issues no one really knew about until Olajuwon got here) – but the guy was one of the greatest big men to ever play the game.
If you get a chance to watch those vintage Rocket games from the mid-80s, do it because to see Olajuwon play in his prime was to see true greatness.
Lots of questions like this floating around:
Q: Hey Doug - quick question we all want to know - when do single game tickets go on sale?
Doug S, Peterborough
A: I’m told “a couple of weeks” so I imagine you’re going to have to wait at least until training camp starts on Sept. 29. But as soon as we know, you will.
Keep those cards and letters coming, folks, we’re a bit dry in the old in-box.